The 49ers needed a stop. They needed to generate pressure on New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. And they knew there was no threat of the Giants running the ball.
So the 49ers put their best pass-rushers on the field in hopes of preserving a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, first-round draft picks in 2015 and ’17, watched the crucial series from the sideline. And coach Kyle Shanahan admitted a day later that he would have liked Armstead and Thomas to get more opportunities.
“You want certain guys to get a certain amount of rushes,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That has to do with situations and personnel groupings and what down and distance they're in. And when it was all said and done, they didn't have enough opportunities, I thought, in nickel. And I'd like to see them have more.”
The 49ers failed to hold onto their fourth-quarter lead, and Manning engineered a game-winning drive, culminating in a 3-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard, for a 27-23 victory over the 49ers on Monday night.
The 49ers deployed five different defensive linemen during the course of the most important defensive series of the game. Twice, the 49ers’ personnel grouping consisted of a three-man line.
DeForest Buckner played all 13 snaps at an inside position, while Cassius Marsh lined up for all 13 snaps at defensive end. Ronald Blair rushed the passer on 11 plays (seven at end, four at tackle). Sheldon Day played seven snaps as an inside pass-rusher, while Dekoda Watson had six snaps outside.
Shanahan said the 49ers have mostly kept Marsh and Blair as their outside rushers, while they have tried to find another inside player to pair with Buckner.
“Buck's the guy we've kept the most consistent,” Shanahan said. “Our edge rushers have been the same, but they've been rotating throughout the year. But our inside guys, we've rotated pretty much between three guys after Buck.”
Through 10 games, Armstead has three sacks, while Thomas has just one.
49ers expect three starters back
Linebacker Reuben Foster, safety Jaquiski Tartt and wide receiver Pierre Garçon are expected to return to the lineup when the 49ers play in Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Foster (hamstring) and Tartt (shoulder) sat out the past two games with injuries sustained in the 49ers’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28. Garçon missed Monday’s game with a knee injury.
“We anticipate getting them back to practice next week when we start,” Shanahan said.
The 49ers also expect wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (head) and nickel back K’Waun Williams (shoulder) to be available. Goodwin was not diagnosed with a concussion on Monday, and he checked out symptom-free the next day, Shanahan said.
This ‘n’ that
Running back Matt Breida has been a pleasant surprise. As the regular season approached, it was unclear what role Breida would have behind Jerick McKinnon. Shanahan shed some light on what he wants to see on offense next season. When asked if he envisions both Breida and McKinnon getting on the field together in 2019, Shanahan said, “I envisioned it this year, so that won't change next year.” . . .
Rookie receiver Dante Pettis saw his most extensive playing time since returning from a knee injury. He was not much of a factor, as he caught four passes for just 12 yards. He played 41 snaps of offense. He also had just one punt return for 1 yard.
“That was his first full week of healthy practice,” Shanahan said. “The week before he got two straight practices in, but it was all the walk-through stuff for the Thursday night game.
“He did a decent job. By no means was it perfect. I expect him to get a lot better as this goes. He's another guy I’m putting a lot of pressure on here in the last six weeks, and I want him to take some huge steps forward. But, at least playing some, getting out of the game healthy, I think he finally has the opportunity to do that.”